COREY CONNELLY and KINNESHA GEORGE-HARRY
TT Ambassador to Costa Rica, Tracy Davidson-Celestine, on Sunday created history by becoming the first woman to lead the People's National Movement's (PNM's) 22-year-old Tobago Council.
Davidson-Celestine got the nod of the party's membership over incumbent political leader Kelvin Charles in an eagerly-anticipated runoff, one week after the party's internal election. She received 3,050 votes while Charles received 2042.
In last week's internal election, Charles and Davidson-Celestine got the highest number of votes among the four leadership contenders. However, neither of them received 50 per cent of the votes to secure a clear mandate.
Speaking at her campaign office in Carnbee, an upbeat Davidson-Celestine thanked Deputy Chief Secretary and Secretary for Finance and the Economy Joel Jack and former Tobago House of Assembly presiding officer Dr Denise Tsoiafatt-Angus, who agreed to support her ahead of Sunday’s runoff.
She also thanked all the teams that came together to ensure she won the election.
"I am very, very excited at this point in time and I look forward to great things for the People's National Movement going forward," she told reporters, amid the din of jubilant supporters.
The Betsy's Hope native said her first priority will be to bring about healing in the party.
"Reconciliation and bringing all of the different teams, different arms, different sectors together, and that process would have started several days ago. I had two leaders coming together to reconcile and we expect to see reconciliation taking place at every level within the PNM."
Tsoiafatt-Angus, who stood beside Davidson-Celestine, said she is excited for the party.
"I am certainly excited for the People's National Movement in Tobago and the fact that we came together."
"The reconciliation began even before the actual victory, and I think that augurs well for the party. But what I am also proud of is the fact that this is our 64th anniversary and the 22nd anniversary of the Tobago Council. This victory today shows that we are not just a party of stability, but we are a party of progress since we have delivered, on this anniversary, the first female political leader of the Tobago Council."
Noting over 70 per cent of the party's membership supported Davidson-Celestine, Jack said the victory signifies democracy is alive and well in the PNM
"We listened to our members and we heeded their call," he said, adding it was now time to take the party in a new direction.
The former Speyside/L'Anse Fourmi/Parlatuvier representative said she would announce her strategies for taking the Tobago Council forward in due course.
A dejected Charles, who congratulated Davidson-Celestine, told reporters at the party's uptown Scarborough headquarters he is disappointed.
"But it is what it is. The people in the party in Tobago have spoken and I have every obligation to listen to their voices."
Davidson-Celestine said Charles's leadership was fraught with shortcomings.
"Well there have been many as articulated by the membership within the People's National Movement. First and foremost, people felt as though they were not included in the decision-making processes of the PNM. People felt as though there was no open-door policy and arrangement to treating with their issues, and there were quite a number of issues.
"He is not approachable. He is not managing the arrangements of the PNM as they would expect. He has not been very vocal in terms of representing Tobago issues, and people are fearful that he would not be able to win the next set of elections. Hence the reason why persons within the PNM would have called for change."
Davidson-Celestine said she has been preparing to lead the council for the past 15 years.
"I am now very ready," she declared.
Fluent in Spanish, Davidson-Celestine served for 12 years in the assembly under the Orville London administration as deputy chief secretary and secretary for tourism and culture.
She has been recognised by Ernst & Young for outstanding work in accounting, by the Scarborough Secondary School Alumni and the Independence Ball Committee for her outstanding contribution to politics.